by Charlotte Maria Tucker
"What a plague lessons are!" exclaimed Rosey, with a long, weary yawn, as she bent over her French exercises, wishing from her heart that grammar had never been invented.
"Work on, little one!" said her brother George, who had overheard the exclamation, "remember that it is doubly your duty to be steady and industrious while mamma is away."
"It is so difficult!" sighed the child.
"Many a duty is difficult," answered the elder brother, "but that is no reason for shirking it. Attending to little duties while we are young helps us to perform great ones when we are old. Do your lessons bravely, dear Rosey, and if they be finished by twelve, you shall have a little story to reward your diligence."
The word "story" called up a dimple upon Rosey's round cheek. She turned with more resolution to her tiresome lesson and the task was ended by twelve.
"Now for my story," cried the child, bringing her little chair close to her brother and resting her arm on his knee, as—looking up joyously into his face—she claimed the fulfillment of his promise.
George looked into the fire for a few moments, as if to draw some ideas from the cheerful blaze. Stirred it and then leaning back on his chair, began the following little tale.
"I thought I lay down and slept and dreamed. And in my dream I beheld a path through a green meadow, along which many a child gaily ran and skipped, gathering the lovely wild flowers that grew on either side. But at one end of the meadow, the path was crossed by a hedge of sharp, prickly thorns, and the name of the thicket was Difficulty. The bushes grew so thick and close that I wondered whether any child would be able to pass them. And I sat me down to watch how the little travellers would get through the Difficulty in their way."
"I suppose that I was one of the little travellers," laughed Rosey, "and the thorn bushes were my horrid French verbs!"
"There are a great many 'Difficulties' in a child's life," replied George with a smile. "Some find it difficult to rise early, some to be punctual or neat, some to control their tempers, others to be generous and kind. There are plenty of thorn bushes in our path, but we must not, like lazy cowards, suffer them to stop us in our onward course."
"Please tell me about the children in your dream," said Rosey.
"The first who reached the thicket was a little girl, with ruddy cheek and curly hair, who had been one of the happiest of the happy as she went dancing through the flowery mead. But as soon as she came to Difficulty, all the cheerfulness fled from her face. She shrank from the first touch of the prickles as if she had expected that life was to be all sunshine and flowers. And sitting down on the grass by the side of the path, she burst into a flood of tears."
"Oh, the cowardly little creature!" cried Rosey.
"Then there came up to the spot a young boy, whose appearance to me was not pleasing. He never looked straight before him, but had a kind of cunning side glance, which made me fancy him less open and frank than a Christian boy ought to be. He made no attempt to push through the thicket, but went creeping along the edge of it, hoping to creep round Difficulty instead of passing straight onwards. I watched him to see if he could succeed in his aim, but he had not gone many steps before his feet stuck fast in a bog and it was only by violent and painful efforts that he could struggle out again to return to the point whence he had started, with his shoes all clogged with clay, his time lost, and his object not gained."
"I suppose that he was a lazy boy," remarked Rosey, "putting off does not help us over our difficulties. I have sometimes tried that plan of creeping round and I always stuck in the bog!"
"Then," pursued George, "a boy with firm step and resolute air came up to the thicket. I saw something like a smile on his face as he looked at the Difficulty before him. He set his teeth hard together, clenched his hands, and then with bold determination made a dash at the thicket. On he went, that stout-hearted lad, dashing aside the prickles, pushing forward as if he scarcely felt the scratches upon his bleeding hands. Trampling down, struggling through Difficulty, he was soon safe and triumphant on the opposite side!"
Little Rosey clapped her hands. "He was a fine fellow!" cried she. "I think that Nelson and Wellington went dashing through difficulties like that. But I can't do so," added the child more gravely, "I have not that bold, strong spirit. I am afraid that I am most like the little cowardly girl who cried when she saw the thicket."
"Is not that because you do not look upon your childish troubles as a means of testing your patience and obedience. Is it not because you do not seek for help from above, even in the little trials of your life?"
"They seem such trifles to look at in that way," said Rosey, gazing thoughtfully into the fire.
"A writer has said that 'trifles form the sum of human things,' and the life of a child, more especially, is made up of what we call trifles. Yet children, as well as those who are old, are required to glorify God. And as they can do no great thing for Him, it is by their cheerful obedience, diligence, and sweet temper that they must show their gratitude and love. And does not this thought, dear Rosey, make the performance of simple daily duties a bright and a holy thing? If what we do, we do as unto the Lord, feeling that His eye is upon us, and seeking in all things to please Him, we find pleasure even in irksome tasks, sweetness in what otherwise would be bitter."
Rosey looked as if she scarcely understood the words of her brother, so, to make their meaning clearer, George went on this his tale—
"There was one other child whom I saw in my dream, advancing towards the thicket Difficulty. I felt sorry for the little girl, for she was feeble and pale, and as she moved over the grass, I saw that she was both lame and barefoot! 'Alas!' thought I, 'if she can scarcely make her way along the smooth and pleasant path, how will she ever struggle through the prickly thorns before her!' Perhaps the same thought was in the mind of the little traveller, for she paused before the thicket and looked forward with a scared and troubled air. Then she clasped her hands and raised her eyes towards the soft blue sky above her, and all trace of fear or care left her smiling face. What was my surprise to see two beautiful little wings, glittering like gold in the sunlight and bright with the rainbow's tints, gradually unfold from her shoulders! The child shook them for a few moments, as if to try their powers, and then rising above earth and all its thorns, she gently flew over the painful place and alighted safely on the ground beyond, looked back with a bright and thankful smile on the difficulty which she had passed."
"Oh," exclaimed Rosey, "what would I not give to have such beautiful wings!"
"Those wings, dear Rosey, are faith and love, which lift us above the world, which bear us onward in a heavenly course, which make us find our chief delight in doing the will of our heavenly Father."
"I have not these wings!"
George drew his little sister closer to him, and bending down his head towards her, whispered, "Ask and ye shall receive (Joh 16:24). God only can cause those wings to grow, by the power of His Holy Spirit. He can give them strength to bear us unharmed over all the rough places of life and the waters of the river of death shall not wet even the soles of the feet of those who pass their depths, buoyed up on the glorious pinions of faith and love!"
Edited by Pam Takahashi
Proofed by Deborah Gardner
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